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Cooktown - Cities, Towns and Localities
Cooktown is where the rainforest meets the reef, situated on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, just 4 hours drive north of Cairns. This is where Captain Cook spent 48 days repairing his ship, before returning home to report on his discovery of Australia.

With its pioneering history, indigenous significance, Daintree and Lakefield National Parks, its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the rest of Cape York make it a must visit destination.

Cooktown offers a wide range of tours and accommodation options to visitors. Check out our listing of attractions and events.

Cooktown Attractions

Nature’s Powerhouse
• Cooktown Botanic Gardens, COOKTOWN QLD 4895 • Ph: +61 7 4069 6004 • Email
One of the highlights of Cooktown is the Nature’s PowerHouse Environment Interpretive Centre located in the historic Botanic Gardens. Designed by the architect Bud Brannigan, the building nestles among huge granite boulders in a lovely bush setting. In the Charles Tanner Gallery one can see exciting exhibitions on the wildlife of Cape York Peninsula which emphasis the environmental importance of this area. The Vera Scarth-Johnson Gallery is home to the superb collection of botanical illustrations by Vera Scarth-Johnson of local flowering plants.

As well as the two permanent exhibitions there are many special events held at Nature's PowerHouse throughout the year. Be sure to visit the website to see the list of current and upcoming events.
Captain James Cook Museum
• Cnr Helen and Furneaux Sts, COOKTOWN QLD 4871
The museum houses rare historical pieces associated with the discovery of the area by Captain Cook, including Cook's cannon and anchor, and relics of the Palmer River gold rush and early Cooktown. Built in 1888 as a convent school run by Irish nuns, the museum documents Cook's voyages and focuses on the 48 days he and his crew spent in Cooktown in 1770 repairing his ship on the banks of the Endeavour River. The museum helps celebrate Cooktown's status as Australia's first, if brief, European settlement. A visit to the museum also provides an insight into the area's Aboriginal and natural history, the gold rush days and their Chinese legacy.
Cooktown Cemetery and Chinese Shrine
A visit toe Cooktown Cemetery, accessible on the south-western edge of town, along the McIvor Road, is a walk into the lives of the final resting place for many of Cooktown's pioneers, their diverse nationalities, religions and cultures. The graveyard are not just memorials to the dead, but are testimonies to their rich, varied and colourful lives. Here lies the stories that bear witness to the tragedies and triumphs of the early pioneers in those early years of exploration and adventure.

The grave sites have a diversity of architectural styles, made from a wide range of materials, and many headstones have engraved epitaphs with lead lettering in-fill. Check out the skills of the stone masons: Melrose and Fenwick, Townsville; J. H. Simmonds, Brisbane; Steene Memorails, Cairns; E. Greenway, Ipswich.

Denominational division are apparent in the cemetery with Catholic, Protestant, Chinese and Jewish sections. There are graves, known and unknown, which reflect the diverse origins of north Queenslanders: Aborigines, Chinese, English, French, German, Irish, Jews, New Zealanders and Scots.

A grave of particular interest to many visitors is that of the ‘Normanby Woman’, a mysterious fair-skinned woman who was found living the Aboriginals, who knew three English words. When she was captured by the English in 1887, the Aboriginals attacked them in an effort to get her back.

Source: Cook Shire - Cooktown Cemetery and Chinese Shrine

Grassy Hill Monuments
Located at the eastern end of the Hope Street, Grassy Hill is named after the fact that the local Aboriginals burnt the forest on the hill to encourage regrowth of vegetation and to draw animals back to the region. When Commander James Cook arrived here in 1770, this hill was covered in grass. It was also the hill that he climbed several times to view the surrounding reefs, enabling him to navigate a safe passage out, after the repair of his ship.

Today, trees no cover the hill, along with the occasional house. It is also home to the Cooktown Lighthouse and Sundial. The lighthouse was built in England and shipped to Cooktown in 1885. It was automated in 1927. Between 1942-1945 it was complemented by a radar station and was subsequently dismantled after World War II. It served the local community and shipping in the area for 100 years until it was made obsolete, and then restored by the Lions Club. The ‘Grassy Hill Sun-Dial’ is a ‘Global Positioning Monument’ that shows the direction and distance to different cities around the world.
Lakefield National Park
Lakefield is Queensland’s second largest national park, covering an area of approximately 537 000ha. Gazetted as national park in 1979, Lakefield is one of the more isolated national parks on the Cape York Peninsula. The park is located within the Laura Basin which drains northwards into Princess Charlotte Bay. The landscape is rich and diverse with a coastal environment of estuaries, mangroves and mudflats to the north, vast grasslands and woodlands on the floodplains and sandstone hills and escarpments in the south.
Estuarine crocodiles are present in creeks, rivers and waterholes in this park. Crocodiles fill an essential role as key predators in the aquatic and estuarine ecosystem. Lakefield is one of only six key areas for estuarine crocodile conservation in Queensland, and is crucial to long term conservation of the species on Queensland’s east coast.

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Cooktown Events

Queensland Events
Cooktown Discovery Festival
• Ph: 07 4069 5381 • Email • Web:
• June
This annual event held over the June Queen’s Birthday weekend celebrates the European discovery and recording of the unique people, flora and fauna of this area. A popular drawcards is the re-enactment of the landing of Lt. James Cook and his crew from the damaged bark Endeavour in 1770.
The Wallaby Creek Festival
• ROSSVILLE QLD • Ph: 074069 5871
• September
A 3 day celebration of music and festivity, presented by the Cape York Folk Club Inc. Rossville is located about 40 km south of Cooktown.
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